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Schools to remain closed as teachers assess readiness

Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori (right) and Moses Nthurima at a past press conference. [File, Standard]

The government has extended school holiday to June due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said the safety of children was paramount as he extended closure of schools that were shut prematurely because of the deadly disease.

“The government loves our children, all of them including those with special needs, those from poor backgrounds and those who are able. I want to emphasize that the last four weeks our children have been on their normal vacation an activity that will end May 4. In the interest of the safety and lives of our children, the government has decided to extend school closure by one month effective from date of opening,” Prof Magoha said yesterday.

The CS said the State is yet to decide on postponement of KCSE and KCPE exams.

“During the intervening period, there will be many interventions, that will depend on how the government is able to control this disease. Whenever the examinations will be administered, every child will have been given the opportunity to cover whatever time that is lost before the said examination is administered,” he explained.

“The government has not decided to postpone both the KCSE and KCPE. Let our children enjoy the last week of their holiday, before they start the one month they have been added,” Magoha went on.

Elsewhere, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) will bring together school principals to assess whether their institutions and teachers are ready for partial opening of the learning centres.

Kuppet wants to confirm if schools, used as quarantine centres, have been fumigated. They will also seek answers on whether testing of staff, who were in contact with isolated persons was done and how schools will enforce social distancing requirement.

Kuppet has instructed all its branch executive secretaries across 47 counties to engage teachers on the study. Secretary General Akello Misori said yesterday the officials have developed an online tool that they will use to assess primary and secondary teachers from their regions.

“We have advised them to obtain data from as many schools as possible between April 27 to May 3. And while doing so, they must obtain the information without physically visiting the schools,” he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta hinted at looming partial opening of schools, especially for candidates. Secondary school heads have set the end of June deadline for opening of schools. Beyond that dateline coverage of syllabus may be hampered.

But this has raised questions on the effectiveness of the plan, given some schools have already been used as quarantine centres and many others earmarked for use in coming weeks.

In a letter dated April 24 to branch officials, Mr Misori said the union executives will first seek to establish the state of safety in schools used as quarantine centres.

“We want to establish if the schools have been thoroughly fumigated and facilities sterilised after use by the isolated persons. We also want to know if testing of the staff members who came into contact with the isolated persons has been done,” said Misori.

In the survey, Kuppet seeks to establish the number of schools currently hosting isolated persons.

Misori said they shall establish how prepared the rest of the schools are to comply with the Ministry of Health protocols for controlling Covid-19.

“These include guidelines on social distancing, curfews, the use of masks in class settings, regular cluster scanning for symptoms, case identification and isolation,” Misori said.

“We shall also establish the number of nurses and matrons per 1,000 students,” said Misori.

Misori said the national office shall engage experts to review the efficacies of national programmes, including examinations, to combat the pandemic.

“The experts will advise us on impact of policy responses in Kenya and selected African and western countries,” Misori told The Standard.

On preparation for national examinations, Kuppet argues that the demand for immediate resumption of the academic calendar has been justified on the necessity for national tests to be done on schedule.

However, Misori directs his branch executives to find out from teachers if compensation for the time lost during the pandemic will be the overriding goal for teachers after resumption of schools.

“Where would that leave other learning activities, such as sports, music, congresses, and others? Would students be mentally prepared to take national examinations under a crash programme of all-reading and no play?” Misori said.

Kuppet has directed branch executives to find out the virus impact on communities and parents, and if they are ready to support a crash programme schools will implement for national examinations.

“What is the extent of vulnerability on families caused by job losses, lockdowns, flooding, and disruptions in the agricultural supply chains? How can these be addressed in an overall post Covid-19 recovery plan?” Misori’s letter reads.

The Kuppet survey is also assessing the effectiveness of the online learning systems that were implemented by Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development from March – April.